The headlines back in June 2016, loudly proclaimed:
“New DNA Technology Confirms Aboriginal People as First Australians.” (ABC News, June 7, 2016)
With all the talk about recognition and “first people,” perhaps many were surprised to learn that the “New DNA Technology” reference is to a research paper allegedly refuting an earlier paper of 2001, that had argued that the oldest known Australian human remains, near Lake Mungo, New South Wales (“Mungo Man”), were alleged to not be Aboriginal at all, but from an extinct human linage. This would mean that the Aborigines, in pre-history “displaced” this race of people. This could have been by interbreeding, but more likely involved warfare. Things were tough and different from today.
This would directly challenge the “first person” ideology, but we did not hear much about it.
The 2001 paper, for reference is: G. J. Adcock (et al.), “Mitochondrial DNA Sequences in Ancient Australians: Implications for Modern Human Origins,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 98, 2001, pp. 537-542.
A more recent paper by T. Heupink (et al.), “Ancient mtDNA Sequences from the First Australians Revisited,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 113, 2016, pp. 6892-6897, alleges that the original samples were contaminated. Media comments state that there were doubts about the 2001 samples from the “community” of researchers, because the material refuted the proposal that the Aborigines were the first people in Australia, and thus “displaced” an earlier race of people.
Talk about circular reasoning!
The 2001 paper used a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The 2016 paper uses more advanced second-generation DNA sequencing techniques, including PCR-based techniques.
Turning to the actual 2016 paper, rather than the media reports, Heupink (et al.), examined the four Willandia Lakes and Kow Swamp 8 (KS 8) remains studied by Adcock (et al.). There were two samples with no identifiable human DNA and the Mungo Man sample “contained no Aboriginal Australian DNA.”
The KS8 sample “reveals human mitochondrial sequences that differ from the previously inferred sequence.”
They recovered a “total of five modern European contaminants from Mungo Man (WLH3). From the remaining sample there was a “previously unidentified Aboriginal Australian haplotype belonging to haplogroup S2” and the other “a contaminating modern European mitochondrial haplotype.”
What can be immediately said is that if the samples are contaminated then they are scientifically invalid for drawing inferences from, simpliciter. For all one knows, the contamination could have accidentally been made by the 2016 research team, or at any time after the 2001 research. The samples could have been contaminated by Aboriginal DNA. In other words, all bets are off.
If, on the other hand, the samples were contaminated by the Europeans in the 2001 research team, which seems to be what is being said, then it would be easy enough to test the samples for this, both by carbon dating and mtDNA. If the samples proved to have ancient mtDNA, then the “first Australians” ideology would be back in trouble.
The notion that the European DNA is a “contamination,” presupposes that the Aborigines were actually the first people here. But, what if, as has been alleged by some for America (see Solutrean hypothesis), that Europeans were here before the Aborigines?
Fringe archaeology has proposed this, and maybe the official narrative is wrong?
There is at present no none-circular proof of contamination. More testing please!
What is very strange about all of this is how the 2001 team allegedly contaminated the samples.
A look at their research paper indicates that they did follow basic procedures. And even if contamination did occur, this would have easily been detected by the 2001 technology. A lot of people have gone to gaol based on the same tests, so the 2001 tests are not likely to be flawed.
All the new tests do is increase power and accuracy, in principle. But here we are dealing with gross errors. Remember, the 2001 paper made it into the highly scientifically prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and this is strongly peer-reviewed.
It is hard to believe that an elementary error would not have been detected.
Consequently, as the matter is highly politically charged, the government should arrange for an independent test to be done by a neutral agent, such as a research team in either Russia, China or Japan, with no Europeans or Aboriginals on the team. Let’s see the results then.